Crowds Mark Six Months of Hong Kong Protests, Pay Respects to Student Who Died

Hong Kong residents gather to mark six months since the start of pro-democracy protests in the city, Dec. 12, 2019.

Tens of thousands of people gathered in downtown Hong Kong on Thursday to mark six months since the pro-democracy protests began in earnest with demands for fully democratic elections as well as the withdrawal of plans to allow extradition to mainland China.

Amid a sea of smartphone flashlights, the crowd gathered in the Central business district, chanting slogans calling on the administration of chief executive Carrie Lam to meet all five demands of the protest movement, which include full democracy and an independent inquiry into police violence against protesters.

While Lam has formally withdrawn widely hated plans to change Hong Kong's extradition laws, she and her officials have repeatedly ruled out meeting the other four demands.

Protesters have continued to take to the streets in their hundreds of thousands, after a landslide victory of pro-democracy parties in last month's District Council elections.

The six-month mark is counted from June 12, when police use of tear gas and rubber bullets on unarmed, peaceful protesters, some of whom were trapped in enclosed spaces, prompted a public outcry, as well as renewed calls for democracy in Hong Kong, which has seen the erosion of its traditional freedoms since the 1997 handover to Chinese rule.

Meanwhile, thousands of people lined up to pay their respects to Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) student Chow Tsz-lok, who died after falling from a parking garage during a police operation targeting protesters.

Chow died in hospital on Nov. 8 with severe brain injuries, at the age of 22. His funeral is scheduled for Friday.

Schoolchildren, college students and working adults were among those interviewed by local media while standing in line, many of whom were wearing black, and some of whom were masked.

Mourners laid white flowers in front of a portrait of Chow at the Tai Fook Memorial Hall in the New Territories town of Tai Wai, as a slideshow of photos from his life played on a screen nearby.

Call for inquiry

HKUST president Wei Shyy has called for an independent inquiry into Chow's death and its rumored links to police activity in the area, as well as demanding an explanation for police actions in preventing ambulances and rescue crews from getting to Chow for more than 30 minutes.

Kelvin Leung, vice-president of the university’s student union, said he was encouraged to see the number of people attending.

"We are still [all of us]] very sad about this," Leung said. "Personally, I hope to find out the truth, but it also depends on the family situation."

"I don't want the family to put too much pressure or emotional burden on themselves."

A high-school student surnamed Lau said she wanted to show that Chow will not be forgotten.

"I came here because I wanted him to know that he is still on everyone's minds, and we will always remember him," she said. "I hope that the government will set up an independent investigative committee to investigate fully what the police actions were, and I hope they will acknowledge what they have done."

Police blamed for death

Amid growing public anger at police violence against the months-old anti-government protest movement, many have blamed Chow's death on the police, after surveillance footage from the garage showed a man being chased and pushed by a larger man shortly before Chow fell.

Healthcare workers have also drawn attention to the fact that Chow's injuries were concentrated around his head and pelvic bone, with no fractures in his limbs, which is common in cases of falls.

Police have dismissed concerns as "rumors," saying that Chow fell from the building shortly before 1:00 a.m., and that police had only entered the building five minutes later, finding him already having fallen.

But another video clip has been circulated that appears to contradict this story, and police later admitted that they had sent a patrol earlier, which had left the building at around 11:20 p.m.

Reported by Man Hoi-tsan and Lu Xi for RFA's Mandarin and Cantonese Services. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.